Beef 101

Too Chefs, Inc©: Beef 101

We at Too Chefs© provide only the finest cuts and grades of meat products. The “Best” is not just a matter of opinion…the “best” rather, is defined by standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Below you will find information that explains how meat products are inspected, graded, and cut. Also see Safety & Thawing Instructions, plus Cooking Instructions.

Meat and Poultry Inspection

The inspection and grading of meat and poultry programs are operated by the United States Department of Agriculture. Inspection for wholesomeness is mandatory and is paid for with tax dollars. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ensures that meat and poultry products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. FSIS inspects all raw meat and poultry sold in interstate and foreign commerce, including imported products. The Agency monitors meat and poultry products after they leave federally inspected plants.

After the meat and poultry are inspected for wholesomeness, products are graded for quality by a Federal grader. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is the agency responsible for grading meat and poultry. Grading for quality means evaluation of traits related to tenderness, juiciness, and flavor of meat; and, for poultry, a normal shape that is fully fleshed and meaty and free of defects. USDA grades are based on nationally uniform Federal standards of quality. So that no matter where or when a consumer purchases graded meat or poultry, it must have met the same grade criteria.

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Handling Food Safely

  • All of our Beef, Chicken, and Pork products are packaged with high quality commercial grade Cryovac® protective packaging, which guarantees them to stay fresh and flavorful for up to one year in a freezer!
  • All of our Seafood products are packaged with high quality commercial grade protective packaging, which guarantees them to stay fresh and flavorful for up to one year in a freezer!
  • Do not use the same cutting board or platter for raw meats and cooked meats. Wash hands, utensils, cutting boards and counters that contact raw food.
  • Do not allow cooked meats to stand at room temperature. Always refrigerate leftovers immediately.
  • Do not thaw at room temperature because this runs the risk of bacterial formation.


Refrigerator Thawing: Thaw in refrigerator for best results. This allows for juicier, more flavorful food. Remove food product from the corrugated box and place meat in a single layer on a tray. Always leave protective packaging on meat while thawing. Time Guidelines for Refrigerator Thawing: Meat Refrigerator (36°F-40°F) Roast 8-15 hours per pound Steak 16-24 hours Poultry 24 hours per 1-2 pounds Seafood 18 to 24 hours per pound Microwave Thawing: This is the LEAST recommended method of thawing because it causes meats to lose more natural juices, resulting in a a final product that may be drier and less tender. Thaw meats in the microwave ONLY if the food will be cooked immediately. If you must prepare meats in the microwave, a meat thermometer should be used to insure that meat is thoroughly heated to an internal temperature of at least 165° F.
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USDA Grades for Meat and Poultry

Beef is graded for tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. There are eight quality grades for beef. Grades are based on the amount of marbling (flecks of fat within the lean), color, and maturity. Quality Grades:

Prime – Prime grade beef is the ultimate in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. It has lots of marbling — flecks of fat within the lean — which enhances both flavor and juiciness. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking (i.e., roasting, broiling, and grilling).
Choice – Choice grade beef has less marbling than Prime, but is of very high quality. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are, like Prime, suited to dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts, such as those from the rump, round, and blade chuck, can also be cooked with dry heat, but be careful not to overcook them. Using a meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of cooking and assures a safe internal temperature: 145 °F is medium rare; 160 ° F, medium; and 170 °F, well done.
Select grade – Select grade beef is very uniform in quality and somewhat leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling , it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. Only the tender cuts (loin, rib, sirloin) should be cooked with dry heat. Other cuts should be marinated before cooking or cooked with moisture to obtain maximum tenderness and flavor.
Standard and Commercial grades – frequently are sold as ungraded or as “store brand” meat.
Utility ,Cutter , and Canner grades – are seldom, if ever, sold at retail but are used instead to make ground beef and processed products.

Pork is not graded with USDA quality grades as it is generally produced from young animals that have been bred and fed to produce more uniformly tender meat. Appearance is an important guide in buying fresh pork. Look for cuts with a relatively small amount of fat over the outside and with meat that is firm and grayish pink in color. For best flavor and tenderness, meat should have a small amount of marbling.

Pork’s consistency makes it suitable for a variety of cooking styles. Chops can be prepared by pan broiling, grilling, baking, braising, or sautéing. Ribs can be braised, roasted, or grilled. Slow cooking yields the most tender and flavorful results. Tenderloins are considered to be the most tender and tasty cut of pork.

The USDA grades for poultry are A,B, and C.

  • Grade A is the highest quality and the only grade that is likely to be seen at the retail level. This grade indicates that the poultry products are virtually free from defects such as bruises, discolorations, and feathers. Bone-in products have no broken bones. For whole birds and parts with the skin on, there are no tears in the skin or exposed flesh that could dry out during cooking, and there is a good covering of fat under the skin. Also, whole birds and parts will be fully fleshed and meaty.The grade shield for poultry may be found on the following chilled or frozen ready-to-cook poultry products: whole carcasses and parts, as well as roasts, tenderloins, and other boneless and/or skinless poultry products that are being marketed. There are no grade standards for necks, wing tips, tails, giblets, or ground poultry.
  • Grades B and C – poultry are usually used in further-processed products where the poultry meat is cut up, chopped, or ground. If sold at retail, they are usually not grade identified.
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Meat Cuts

Beef Cuts – Beef is divided into sections called primal cuts. From these large areas, the meat cutter makes smaller portions suitable for individual or family-sized packaging. Different cuts of beef require unique cooking methods. A chuck, for example, makes an excellent roast but isn’t as pleasing when pan-broiled. With these details in mind, we at Too Chefs© have prepared the following information for you to use as a guide when selecting and preparing various beef cuts.

  • Chuck – The chuck section comes from the shoulder and neck of the beef, and it yields some of the most flavorful and economical cuts of meat.  The downside is that these cuts tend to be tough and fatty, and they have more than their fair share of bone and gristle.  It’s usually best to cook them slowly in a liquid.  Cuts from this area benefit from slow, wet cooking methods like stewing, braising or pot-roasting.
  • Rib – Meat from the rib section tends to be tender and well marbled with the fat that makes steaks and roasts juicy and flavorful.  Rib steaks and roasts are sometimes called “prime rib” even when the meat isn’t good enough to be graded “prime” by the USDA.  It’s best not to marinate rib cuts.
  • Short Loin – This area boasts extremely tender cuts and can be prepared without the aid of moist heat or long cooking times. Cuts from the short loin may be sautéed, pan fried, broiled, pan broiled or grilled.
  • Tenderloin – Considered the most tender cut of beef; responds well to sauces, meaning the meat does not overpower the flavor of the sauce. It can be cut as the whole strip, or into individual steaks for filet mignon.
  • Sirloin – These tender cuts respond well to sautéing, pan-frying, broiling, pan-broiling or grilling.
  • Top Sirloin – Some top sirloin steaks are wonderfully juicy and flavorful but others are mediocre, so this is a risky steak to buy.  Don’t confuse this with an ordinary sirloin steak, which includes a bone.  American butchers call a thick top sirloin steak a chateaubriand, although the French reserve that term for a much better cut from the tenderloin.
  • Bottom Sirloin – The bottom sirloin is one of the two main muscles of the sirloin. The cuts from the bottom are tender if cooked properly and they are not excessively expensive.
  • Round – The round consists of lean meat well-suited to long, moist cooking methods.
  • Shank – The meat of the shank is tough and is best when it is cooked in stews.
  • Brisket – Traditionally used for corned beef, brisket is best prepared with moist heat. Suitable preparation methods include stewing, braising and pot-roasting.
  • Flank – This meat is lean, muscular and very flavorful. Flank is primarily used for flank steaks and rolled flank steaks. It can also be used for kabobs. It should be sliced thin against the grain for maximum chewability. Use to make the classic London broil.
  • Plate – This section is best used for stew meat, where its rich, beefy flavor can be appreciated.
Degree of TendernessThe primal cuts listed below are
ranked according to their tenderness,
with 1 representing the most tender
and 5 representing the toughest.
Primal Cut Degree of Tenderness
Short Loin 1
Rib 2
Sirloin 2
Chuck 3
Round 3
Flank 4
Plate 5
Brisket & Shank 5
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Pork Cuts

  • Boston Butt – This economical, rectangular roast is the cut of choice for pulled pork barbecue, since it’s marbled with enough fat to keep the meat moist while cooking.
  • Loin – This is where we get the leanest and most tender pork cuts.  Since they’re lean, these cuts tend to dry out if overcooked.  Pork is safe to eat if it’s cooked to an interior temperature of 160 degrees.  There are three main parts of the loin:  the blade end, which is closest to the shoulder and tends to be fatty; the sirloin end, which is closest to the rump and tends to be bony; and the center portion in the middle, which is lean, tender, and the most expensive.  Cuts such as pork chops, roasts, tenderloins, and canadian-style bacon are from the loin area.
  • Spareribs – This cut is not as meaty as country-style ribs or back ribs, but they’re popular at barbecues since they’re easy to eat with your fingers.
  • Bacon – The extra juicy side and bottom cuts are best for sliced and slab bacon.
  • Ham – This pork cut makes a great roast for a large crowd.  It’s usually cured as ham and is sold either boneless or bone-in, and either whole or halved.
  • Picnic – This comes from the lower part of the pig’s shoulder.  It’s usually made into smoked hams, but fresh picnic shoulder makes for very juicy barbecued pulled pork.
  • Jowl – This area is usually cut into squares, then cured and smoked. Also called jowl bacon.
  • Feet – In various stores and supermarkets, pigs feet are available fresh, cured, cooked or pickled.
  • Clear Plate & Back Fat – It is cut is available in various stores and supermarkets unsmoked and unsalted, and often used for making lard and cracklings.

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